Star Trek: Renegades

Official Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines Aim at Current Projects

For those who know me, I’m a Trekkie. I’m The Star Trek Dude on Twitter and Facebook and I do tend to bring in Trek examples more often than I probably should. That’s why this issue is near and dear to my heart. On Thursday, June 23rd, Paramount and CBS announced via StarTrek.com the first official Star Trek fan film guidelines. Of course, I jumped on quickly to review these and see what the situation was. Now, I was feeling very optimistic after everything Justin Lin (Director of Star Trek Beyond) and J.J. Abrams had said specifically about fan films and the Axanar lawsuit. Unfortunately, my mood has since changed.

For a full explanation of these guidelines, please check them out here but I’m to highlight a few and talk about my thoughts.

Analyzing the Guidelines

I don’t hate all of these guidelines. Some make perfect sense like:

2. The title of the fan production or any parts cannot include the name “Star Trek.” However, the title must contain a subtitle with the phrase: “A STAR TREK FAN PRODUCTION” in plain typeface. The fan production cannot use the term “official” in either its title or subtitle or in any marketing, promotions or social media for the fan production.

I totally get it. They want everyone to know exactly what is and is not a fan production. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, about this one. It’s straight forward and reasonable. The very next point is just as reasonable:

3. The content in the fan production must be original, not reproductions, recreations or clips from any Star Trek production. If non-Star Trek third party content is used, all necessary permissions for any third party content should be obtained in writing.

Again, yes, we don’t want fan films literally ripping off content from licensed official episodes, movies, etc.

If the rest were like this, I wouldn’t even need to write an article but things just blow up. Let’s start with the very first point:

1. The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

Out of the gate this means that Star Trek Continues is basically dead in the water. They produce nearly hour long episodes following ongoing missions of The Original Series Enterprise and crew under Kirk’s command. Each episode would break this rule not to mention every other fan film that is well over 30 minutes in length like Of Gods and Men and Renegades. In fact, Prelude to Axanar is over the 15 minute mark and would need to be broken into two just to fit this very rule. The short segments could be dealt with in a serialized web format much like Red vs Blue or something to that affect BUT “no more than 2 segments” and “with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.” That means you get 30 minutes to tell your story with your characters and then they are gone forever. I don’t know about you but one of the things I loved about Trek in the 90s was how characters’ lives continued. They grew older, got promoted, and showed up on different shows. It was a connected and evolving universe. Fan films can kiss this goodbye.

4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.

That point focuses on props and costumes. Now, if I’m understanding this one wrong, let me know. It sounds to me like fan films that use existing styles (i.e. uniform designs from TV series or movies, props from the same) they must use officially licensed products. Does this mean fan films can make their own? What about costumes made from officially licensed costume patterns? And how is this going to be enforced? This one is tough and a little nebulous to me, so I’ll move on.

The big one I want to talk about is #5 which focuses on the actors and crew allowed involvement in fan films.

5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.

So this means that ANYONE who has ever worked on Trek in any official capacity or any other CBS or Paramount product cannot legally be involved in a fan film. No one. No actors, lighting guys, DVD art designers, maker of t-shirts. Even a person who does graphic design work for Star Trek Online said he has to drop off a fan films he was planning to work on. This immediately means that Star Trek: Renegades and their upcoming project Requiem is a no-go from the start since it includes legacy actors like Walter Koenig, Tim Russ, and Robert Picardo just to name a few. It also means that anyone who might have helped with ship design back in the 90s is a no-go too.

What does this mean?

From my perspective it’s simple. This is a direct reaction to the events around Axanar, its lawsuit, and the other popular fan productions, specifically Star Trek Continues and Star Trek: Renegades. Paramount and CBS have a new movie and TV on the horizon. While we don’t know the details on the show, we know that Beyond continues the JJ-verse with Kirk and company. Meanwhile, the fan productions focus on the Prime universe in the old TV show era, before that, and in the future after Nemesis. These things don’t clash yet Paramount and CBS seem to take issue with them. Now, maybe this is more personal and just about Axanar or maybe it’s less personal and it’s about all fan films. I don’t know but I can say that these new guidelines appear to take aim at the big three.

As a lifelong fan, I’m disappointed. I love Star Trek and I enjoy the fan productions. They get me through the empty time Paramount and CBS have left in addition to telling stories those companies have no interest in telling. The fact that everything is coming to a head on the 50th anniversary of the franchise is both disappointing and disheartening. For us fans, it was supposed to be a year of celebration and excitement. Instead, there is a lot of tense, hurt feelings, and distrust.

Since the news is still young, I’m curious to see what these fan films have to say in addition to others I have not mentioned. In fact, we’ve published at least five other articles about Star Trek fan films. Check them out below to see some of what we might be missing with these new guidelines.

Star Trek Horizon

Star Trek Progeny

Star Trek Renegades

Pacific 201

Axanar

What do you think of the new fan film guidelines? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter @griddaily!

Official Star Trek Fan Film Guidelines Aim at Current Projects

AXANAR: CBS Suit and Star Trek Fan Films

Axanar is attempting to boldly go where no Star Trek fan film has gone before. Over the course of three crowdfunding campaigns between Kickstarter and Indiegogo, they have raised about $1 million in funding for their Prelude to Axanar short film and Axanar full feature film. While their process has been ongoing for well over a year and production is set to begin on the feature film in February, CBS and Paramount, the owners of the official Star Trek TV and movie rights, have decided to file a lawsuit against Axanar Productions.

For many in the Trek community, this has been taken as a serious blow to the fan base. For decades, CBS and Paramount have allowed fan films to continue with little to no intrusion. Some of these productions have been incredibly popular like Star Trek: Continues which continues The Original Series story and format, leveraging new actors to portray Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the rest of the Enterprise crew. They currently have six episodes available on their website. Additionally, Star Trek: Renegades leveraged previous Trek actors in their original roles continuing on a more dark theme. The actors included in “Episode 1” are Walter Koenig (Chekov), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Robert Picardo (Dr. Lewis Zimmerman), and Manu Intiraymi (Icheb), among others. In fact, they’ve even boasted bigger Trek names for future episodes including Nichelle Nicoles (Uhura), Robert Beltran (Chakotay), Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), and Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax). So, people want to know why Axanar is any different.

In their defense, they are using a new story with primarily new characters and have even taken Star Trek out of their title. They are using new ships and covering a time period not used in previous Trek. The characters they are leveraging were minor and not star or leading roles in the various TV series or movies. With that said, yes, they are using Klingons, Vulcans, and other Trek-specific species. But, what is the difference? This is something I suppose that Axanar Productions and CBS have to figure out together but many people think it’s the money involved. While arguing quality is something subjective, money is not. The amount of money raised by Axanar Productions is significantly higher than any previous Star Trek fan films and might even take the crow for fan films in general.

What do I think? Well, I think that CBS and Paramount have a vision for Star Trek with the upcoming Star Trek Beyond film and untitled TV web series set to hit in the next 13 months. CBS has a vision for these official productions and it’s possible that Axanar does not gel with these concepts or ideals and due to Axanar’s popularity, CBS wants to down-play their story. With that said, this is poorly timed by CBS. Star Trek is a complicated franchise, one that has a complex fan base that is willing to be very vocal about their passion of Trek. While the announcement of a new TV series was very exciting, many (not myself, by the way) were disappointed and down right angry that the series would only be available on the CBS All-Access paid subscription network (the pilot episode will air on CBS directly though).  Things continued on the downward trend with the release of the first Star Trek Beyond trailer which many (again, not me) felt did not feel Trek. In fact, it prompted Simon Pegg to make statements about how the trailer didn’t truly depict the message and tone of the film and that he was unhappy with said trailer. Thirdly, Creation Entertainment tried to pull a fast one on passionate fans by price gouging the General Admission tickets for the 50th Anniversary Star Trek Las Vegas convention, causing a retraction and reversal of the price increase within 12 hours.

Star Trek Axanar Ares

For CBS and Paramount to file suit now, after Axanar Productions already met with them as recently as August, seems confusing and in poor taste. With that said, since I am not a lawyer, CBS and Paramount may be completely in the right here if Axanar Productions is making a profit from their crowd funding or breaking other aspects of copyright law. For now, we’ll have to wait. Below is the official response from Alec Peters of Axanar Productions:

STATEMENT FROM ALEC PETERS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF AXANAR

December 30, 2015

This morning, I was greeted with news that our production company, Axanar Productions and I, personally, am being sued by CBS Studios, Inc. and Paramount Pictures Corporation for copyright infringement of Star Trek.

First of all, I was disappointed to learn about this through an article in an industry trade. For several years, I’ve worked with a number of people at CBS on Star Trek-related projects, and I would have hoped those personal relationships would have warranted a phone call in advance of the filing of a legal complaint. Nevertheless, I know I speak for everyone at Axanar Productions when I say it is our hope that this can be worked out in a fair and amicable manner.

Axanar is a fan film. Fan films – whether related to Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers, Batman or any other franchise – are labors of love that keep fans engaged, entertained, and keep favorite characters alive in the hearts of fans. Like other current fan films, AXANAR entered production based on a very long history and relationship between fandom and studios. We’re not doing anything new here.

Like all fan films, AXANAR is a love letter to a beloved franchise. For nearly 50 years, Star Trek’s devotees have been creating new Star Trek stories to share with fellow fans. That’s all we’re trying to do here.

Since the original Star Trek TV series, when the letter writing campaign by fans got NBC to greenlight a third season of Star Trek, fan support has been critical to the success of the franchise. It is the Star Trek fans themselves who are most affected here, for by suing Axanar Productions to stop making our movie and collect so-called damages, CBS and Paramount are suing the very people who have enthusiastically maintained the universe created by Gene Roddenberry so many years ago.

The fact that many of the fans involved with Axanar Productions are also industry professionals speaks volumes to the influence of Star Trek in the entertainment industry. Not surprisingly, these fans want to give something back. We’re very proud that the work we’ve done to date looks so good. That is also a reflection of the devotion of Star Trek’s fans.

Like everything related to Axanar Productions, we take this matter very seriously and remain open to discussing solutions with all parties that can be mutually beneficial.

Alec Peters

The official statement can be found on the official Axanar Facebook page here.

The full complaint (via Hollywood Reporter) is available here.

Many people have taken to the Internet with a hashtag supported by Axanar Productions #IStandWithAxanar which is paired with various images, profile photos, cover photos, etc. Additionally, Change.org is being leveraged for petitions supporting Axanar, like this one.

Others are concerned about their connection to the crowdfunding efforts. As contributors, our money is already gone. If production is shut down, what happens to our money? Additionally, are we liable for any damages as contributors? Again, while I’m not a lawyer, I do not think that CBS and Paramount are out to get any of the fans involved and are directly interested in Alec Peters and the rest of Axanar Productions. So, I don’t think we have to worry there. In the end, our money is likely lost but the show might go on. A couple years ago, a Kickstarter funded card game, Redshirts, was put on hold for about a year due to a copyright lawsuit with CBS. Eventually, an agreement was made and the game was altered and is now sitting in my basement. Perhaps an agreement can be made. For now, we’ll have to wait.

 

 

AXANAR: CBS Suit and Star Trek Fan Films

Star Trek: Renegades – A Review

Firstly, let me start off by saying that I am not against fan films existing. I think that Star Trek having such a giant fan film base is a great thing and an excellent platform for aspiring filmmakers to get their start in a universe grounded in the deep lore that Star Trek has built over the last 49 years. I personally attempt to keep up with any news of new fan films in the works and I am ecstatic for the upcoming Axanar and Pacific 201 films which appear to bring a new brilliance to otherwise unseen eras in the Star Trek timeline.

That being said, Star Trek: Renegades was just…bad, in every sense of the word. While I am not against fan films existing, I am against bad producing, bad writing, and just generally bad storytelling in whatever forms it may appear in. Be that a Star Trek fan film, James Cameron’s Avatar, or any Uwe Boll film ever, I will always be against sloppy, confusing, and just plain uninteresting storytelling such as that which appears in Renegades. In order to be specific and logical with my grievances, I will attempt to go through each category of filmmaking and be as specific as possible about where I feel there are errors.

 

***********PLEASE NOTE THAT SPOILERS WILL APPEAR BELOW.*****************

 

ACTING

Firstly, the acting of Renegades was, in simple terms, atrocious. People may point to the performances of Tim Russ, Walter Koenig, and Robert Picardo as being good acting and yes, for the most part, these three seasoned Star Trek actors do give good and convincing performances. I was actually quite surprised at Koenig’s ability, in this film, considering his age and the fact that he hasn’t really played any other character ever, besides Chekov, except for his conniving role as Bester in Babylon 5. I thought perhaps he may have lost his ability to act over the years of playing the same character over and over again but this was not the case. Koenig delivered a nuanced and pleasant performance as a new kind of Chekov that I will admit was fun to watch.

Star Trek: Renegades Walter Koenig

However, Koenig’s, as well as Russ’s and Picardo’s considerable acting ability only serves to make literally every other actor pale in comparison. Extremely pale. Even other actors who have acted in professional films such as Manu Intiraymi, reprising his role as freed Borg/Brunali Icheb from Star Trek: Voyager, and Corin Nemec, known for his role as Jonas Quinn from Stargate SG-1, simply do not seem to have the ability to act anymore, if they ever did. Honestly, I think their respective performances in Voyager and SG-1 were raised by the professionalism of those around them and once that professionalism was lost, their acting ability suffered. Unfortunate but true.

For Nemec’s performance, I was half convinced that, when looking at his ship’s viewscreen, he was really looking at cue cards for his dialogue and was reading them off one at a time. Unfortunately, this is the standard that Renegades sets with its acting and the bad performances are made even worse when performed in front of Koenig, Russ, or Picardo. It was torturous to see Chekov actually perform when the character of his great grand-daughter stands there and delivers lines as wooden as can be, especially that of former Mythbuster/McDonalds spokesman Grant Imahara. Even the scenes where Koenig, Russ and Picardo are not present, the acting feels like a band of amateurs decided to recite lines off the Renegades script. Not act, recite. All of the rest of the performances feels more akin to a dramatic reading than film acting. Everything comes off as forced, wooden and entirely unconvincing, which is the job of actor. Make me believe that you are your character. In this, Renegades entirely failed with the notable exception of Koenig who, I am pleased to say, still has it.

PRODUCTION DESIGN AND SPECIAL EFFECTS

Perhaps the only half redeeming part of Renegades is that, because its budget was larger than most, it does have a decent amount of good designs, mostly in the area of the ship design. Many of the CGI ships were well designed, well rendered and pleasant to look at. My only issue with this area was how the Syphon ships looked too similar to the Son’a ships from Star Trek: Insurrection but maybe that’s just me. However, the CGI model for the USS Archer, same class as the titular ship from Voyager’s two parter “Equinox”, was gorgeous. Very nice to look at and praise to the artist who made it. All that being said, the bulk of any CGI where it was motion-tracked or chroma-keyed was just bad. When physical sets were being used, the settings were decently convincing but once any actor walked in front of a green screen, I instantly could tell the difference and it severely brought down the experience.

Star Trek: Renegades Icarus in Battle

While all that could be explained due to a lack of proper budget, nothing can explain why Icheb’s pseudo-Borg tech arm thing was made from CGI and not a physical prop. Icheb’s robot arm was seriously the most distracting part of this film simply because it was horribly motion-tracked. As Icheb would walk, his arm would not move smoothly and would inexplicably jerk one way or another regardless of how Icheb was actually moving. It was so noticeable that I had to rewind just to make sure I wasn’t crazy. It would have made so much more sense to just build a glossy plastic arm for his to wear and, in all likelihood, would have been cheaper to do. It seems like the filmmakers wanted so much to have the CGI effect of Icheb’s arm appearing from nothing that they dismissed all concepts of practicality in favor of one effect that was unimpressive to say the least.

 

And Icheb’s arm is not the only CGI artifact that doesn’t appear good. The strange artifact that creates portals simply did not appear real. It had such an annoying glow and faded look that one can only assume that it was made using the most simplistic of 3D modeling software. If they took so much time and spent so much money on making the ships look as good as they do, why couldn’t they make a simple 3D stone block look any sort of real? Apparently consistency was not on the minds of these filmmakers since the complex CGI elements like spaceships will look good but simple elements like stone blocks or robot arms look entirely fake.

EDITING

While I understand that making an amateur film can be an overwhelming undertaking, I do not believe there is an excuse for the sloppy editing present in Renegades. I remember a year or so ago when Renegades was posting about their new cameras and how professional they were gonna look because of it and stuff. However, even with their tech advances, Renegades still feels like an amateur backyard film. I remember making backyard films with my brother and I make no claims to greatness. Our films sucked and I fully admit that but Renegades promised something so professional looking that they made it out like CBS was actually considering them. After viewing Renegades, I can say that the editing alone would be enough to turn any professional TV executive off of the idea. The flaws in the editing are almost too numerous to count. Perhaps the most grievous error is the absurd amount of bad closeups. I don’t mind an occasional closeup but when you literally spend half of your dramatic scenes with a slow motion closeup that isn’t even centered on the actor’s face, you have a problem. It comes off as forced drama and looks cheap.

CHARACTERIZATION (AKA AN EXERCISE IN FAN SERVICE)

Being an aspiring screenwriter, I pay close attention to how characters are developed and characterized in TV and films. Characterization is perhaps the most important part of screenwriting because it’s how you get the audience invested in your story. Without characters that feel real, you leave the audience wondering why they are wasting their time on characters they don’t care about, and that is the case for literally every single character in Renegades. No one, and I literally mean no one, is an interesting character. After viewing Renegades, I couldn’t believe just how bad each character was made and how much apathy I had for them all. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of characters in Renegades are not actual characters but merely caricatures of their “place in Star Trek” for the purposes of fan service.

Let’s start off with the minor characters and since their names are unimportant, I will refer to them by their species since that’s all they represent in this movie.

The Bajoran has no purpose in this film other than to be the foil for The Cardassian. Both have no reason to be there other than they already are, both have no character agency to keep doing the things they do. They are contrivances for the purpose of making the audience feel like it’s more ‘Star Treky’ because there is a Bajoran who hates a Cardassian and makes a Pah-Wraith reference and a Cardassian there for the Bajoran to hate. They all forget that Renegades is supposed to take place long after the events of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and that the Dominion War was won. The Cardassians were defeated and were presumedly forced to pay restitution and work towards peace, although not seen on screen. Being an avid Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fan and a lover of how the Bajoran/Cardassian political situation was worked into the story, I cannot express how much I hated how Renegades decided that their best use of a Bajoran and Cardassian was as a simple exposition of racism with no explanation and no reasoning. I found this insulting both to myself and to the depth that DS9 had explicated the Bajoran/Cardassian story over its seven year run.

Now for another minor character pairing that made no sense. Icheb and the Betazoid are simply the most awkward coupling I’ve ever seen. Their pairing is not romantic in nature but it’s also not without possibility and if this explanation makes no sense, that mirrors the sense that both of these characters don’t have. Icheb, bitter at being experimented on by Section 31, but also possibly thankful, constantly gives the Betazoid a hard time just for being around. Icheb exudes angst over being abused by both the Borg and Section 31 but he also somehow likes it and when the Betazoid questions him about anything, Icheb gets angry. You’ll also notice reading this that I haven’t mentioned anything about the Betazoid on her own because for all intents and purposes, she has no character on her own. She is there to be the plot device that Icheb talks to and also the plot device that helps free Icheb from the Syphon guard with her Betazoid telepathy. If one were to simply replace her with say Deanna Troi, or any Betazoid ever, or even if she was just replaced in the script with “telepathic plot device”, one would never know the difference because of how flat and unnecessary she is.

Star Trek: Renegades Icheb

Coming over to Dr. Lucian and Fixer, this is perhaps the only pairing that had any sort of compelling emotional appeal that worked. While I think that the explanation for why we should feel for these characters didn’t work, Sean Young, better known as Replicant Rachael from Blade Runner, gave a decently nuanced performance alongside Robert Picardo’s reprisal of Dr. Lewis Zimmerman that made me feel for her situation even though I didn’t really know nor understand her situation. Basically, I understood that Fixer was once a person important to her and when he died, she preserved his brain patterns in the hologram of Fixer that has been serving as the Icarus’s engineer since then unbeknownst to the rest of the crew. However, this is where this plot line fell apart. Given the numerous problems with maintaining hologram’s visual integrity as seen in Voyager with The Doctor, I didn’t find it believable that the Fixer hologram had passed itself off as human for years with no one on the crew knowing, including himself. Wouldn’t someone have noticed at some point the slightest glitch in his holographic matrix? Wouldn’t someone have noticed that he doesn’t eat or use the bathroom or anything a human does? This coupled with the fact that it is never explained where Fixer’s holographic emitters are or how they work or how he can go anywhere and do everything everyone else can made for Fixer’s character to be just an excuse for Dr. Lucian and Dr. Zimmerman to have a secret from everyone else. While they could have at least explained that Fixer uses a mobile emitter like Voyager’s EMH, it’s as if Renegades assumed that its audience was too dumb to question how his hologram works so they sidestepped the issue entirely.

Coming over to perhaps the worst performance of the entire cast, Lt. Masaru, played by Grant Imahara, I have to say that this character made no sense in the slightest. He starts out as an aid to Admiral Chekov and only serves as a plot device for narrative explanation to bring the audience up to speed. Then, near the end of the film, he is revealed to have been a spy and assassin. He kills Admiral Paris, and just as he attempts to reveal his evil plan and kill Admiral Chekov, Masaru is conveniently killed by Chekov’s unnecessary Romulan bodyguard. This was perhaps the ultimate slap in the face to the audience. The Romulan, who is never explained, kills their only known lead to the conspiracy and her only excuse for killing the person who could explain everything is “old habits.” Like really? You unnecessarily kill your big reveal plot device character of Masaru using another unnecessary plot device Romulan because of “old habits”? Way to prolong the conspiracy way longer than needed because you were too dumb to realize that information could save everyone but what can you expect from a character whose only existence was to kill Masaru because the plot demanded it.

And for the final minor character that I will explicate, The Andorian. This was the most blatant use of fan service that has ever existed. Not only is she a hot Andorian chick, but one with cleavage that would make Seven of Nine blush. Her entire existence is reduced to serving as an over-sexualized device for the demands of the plot to use and spit out. First, I am not going to be one of those people who say that ALL sex appeal in Star Trek is heresy like those who disdain Seven of Nine or Deanna Troi simply because their bodies were accentuated. However, the Andorian’s body is not just accentuated, its crafted for the specific purpose of over-sexualized titillation clearly seen in her first seen when she engages in a lesbian tryst with a woman right before using a “mind rape” device on her. Then, for the rest of the film, is seen with an annoying amount of cleavage rivaling that of Christina Hendricks. I can only assume that this distracting amount of cleavage was used to draw the audience away from the fact that the Andorian only exists to be the stereotypical “hacker” chick who discovers the evil conspiracy because she can and the plot demanded that of her. When your characters are serving the whims of the plot just because that’s how it HAS to happen or it all falls apart, you have a problem with your plot and it makes your characters flat, uninteresting, and unpleasant to watch.

While I could go on with other minor characters and how contrived they are, I shall digress by moving on to the antagonists. The Syphon are a new race introduced in Renegades and I have to say, I couldn’t find them less interesting. Given that the Syphon are supposed to be something new, you would expect perhaps new and unexplored traits to appear that may bring interest to the audience but about five minutes into their introduction, they are revealed to be nothing more than Klingons in fake looking masks. The Syphon culture, as it appears, praises honor and rituals and rites essentially all things that we’ve seen before in the Klingon episodes of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, coupled with the fact that the Syphon appearance looks curiously like it was ripped off of the Wraith from Stargate: Atlantis, I feel like no imagination was actually put into these villains. They are given some plot contrived reason for why their actions are not actually wrong because they were wronged first but this is never explored beyond their word so we have no way of knowing what they’re actually doing. The Syphon are the bad guys because the plot demands that there be alien bad guys for no real reason. Again, having contrived characters, or in this case entire cultures, makes for zero interest on the part of the audience. Especially when this alien race is nothing more than Klingon rejects.

Star Trek: Renegades Lexxa

Finally we come to the major characters but curiously, the only one of any real consequence is Lexxa Singh. I cannot express just how uninteresting this character is. She first appears in her Orion prison cell writing the words to William Ernest Henley’s poem, Invictus, on the walls which in itself made no real sense other than Lexxa accentuates the word, “captain”, in a clichéd way to reference Star Trek’s tradition of captains. Perhaps this was meant to be a reference to Nelson Mandela’s incarceration in Robbin Island prison but given Lexxa’s apathy about pretty much everything other than her mother, I just couldn’t see it. But let’s just discuss Lexxa’s origins for a minute. Her last name is Singh and it is revealed that she is the famed Khan Noonian Singh’s daughter…three hundred or so years after he would have been at the peak of power during the Eugenics Wars…and about a hundred years after his brief resurgence as seen in Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan. So you may ask why Khan’s daughter appears in a time when it’s pretty much impossible for to appear in at her age and you would be right to ask. There is no answer to be found however. Replace Lexxa with any character who has any modicum of fighting skill and nothing would have changed. There is nothing special about Lexxa that would make her being Khan’s daughter make any sort of sense. It is as if the writers were like: “We need a main character but with something that the Trekkies will like because it’s a reference to something…Khan’s Daughter, let’s do it regardless of how much sense it won’t make.” Then Lexxa’s origins are conveniently sidestepped by her flashbacks regarding her mother whose identity is never revealed. Is this supposed to be Marla McGivers? Or someone Khan knew during The Eugenics Wars? We never find out. All that matters is the half-hearted attempt at giving Lexxa some character depth even if it only serves to make her character more confusing than she already is.

STORYLINE

I will put this quite simply. The plotline is a mess. There are these interwoven plot threads involving a Starfleet conspiracy, the Syphon threat, Section 31, the USS Archer, and the crew of the Icarus but nothing comes full circle. It feels as if the filmmakers wanted to do something impressive so they took the base ideas from three fan films and smashed them together into one, resulting in a convoluted mess that makes the Temporal Cold War of Star Trek: Enterprise’s infamy look like the plot a children’s chapter book. The conspiracy is never resolved, story feels no more advanced at the end than it did at the beginning, and the Syphon threat is only somewhat resolved due to some deus ex machina performed by Fixer using technobabble that would put Voyager’s plot resolutions to shame. In short, don’t expect anything to make sense at all because it won’t and thinking about it will only result in a headache.

Star Trek: Renegades Syphon

THE BUDGET ARGUMENT

Now many will argue that Renegades deserves some slack due to its lack of budget and yes, I can forgive things like effects, set design and the like since money is required for these things. But one thing that always pops out to me is why do some of the effects suck while others are pretty great? Why is there this disconnect? If you’re going to do one thing well, do everything well. Don’t be so half-hearted that you think that if you do a few things well and skimp on the rest that no one will notice. Another thing that does not require money is imagination. There was no imagination brought into this movie. Everything was so contrived and forced that it felt like these filmmakers were being forced into making a movie when they really didn’t want to. Good writing costs no money but this film is lacking any sort of good writing and skill in making an interesting movie. Look at a movie like Primer. While I am not a die-hard fan of Primer, it is easily recognizable that the makers of that film had imagination and while they had a tiny budget, certainly less than Renegades, they still made something decently good and at the very least, interesting enough to enthrall an audience in its world. This is something Renegades quite simply didn’t do.

THE TV PILOT ARGUMENT

Some will also argue that Renegades was meant as a television pilot and that the characters, plot, and budget could all be fixed if given more time to develop. While yes, TV pilots are meant to introduce characters and plots but Renegades did too much. Like I said in the Storyline section, it felt as if they wanted to smash three plots into one and hope it worked out when it didn’t and, while I don’t think having a lot of characters was a flaw, I do think having every character nothing more than a caricature, plot device, or fan service was a flaw. Look at a show like Firefly. They had a cast of eight and, just in the pilot, they made each character interesting enough that we wanted to come back to see more of them then in the subsequent episodes. We got to see each character develop more and more. Same with shows like Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, JJ Abrams’ Lost, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and the list goes on. While they didn’t complete plots or character threads in the pilots, and they didn’t need to. They did at least make the characters have the potential to become more than what they started out as. Renegades did not do this. Each character was so flat that they can only continue being just as uninteresting if any more episodes have the unfortunate fortitude to get made.

STAR TREK: RENEGADES OVERALL

Just to wrap up, do not think that I am a hater of all fan films or anything of the like or that I am a Trek hater. I too would love for Star Trek to return to TV but I am extremely thankful that CBS did not pick up Renegades because I am simply against shoddy writing and poor filmmaking and, in the case of Renegades, it simply did not do justice to Star Trek. Given that Star Trek is one of the richest modern mythologies ever created, it deserves better than Renegades’ half-hearted attempt at continuing where Voyager/Nemesis left off. With its nonsensical plot, terrible characterization, and mismatched production value, Renegades should serve as an exercise in how not to make a fan film when you have a larger than most budget and also as an example of not being so steeped in hubris in a vain attempt to sell to CBS.

Have you seen Renegades? What did you think? Let us know in the comments

Star Trek: Renegades – A Review

CBS Says ‘No’ to Star Trek: Renegades

Space might be the finale frontier but Star Trek is still trying to return to the small screen after the 2005 cancellation of Enterprise. Many have pitched show concepts and ideas but only a few have really made anything concrete. One of the biggest is Star Trek: Renegades, a crowd-funded fan film starring many Trek alum including Walter Koenig, Manu Intiraymi, Gary Graham, Robert Picardo, and Tim Russ who also directed the film\pilot. What is Star Trek: Renegades?

According to writer Ethan H. Calk:

It is nearly ten years after Voyager’s return from the Delta Quadrant, and the Federation is in a crisis. The Federation’s main suppliers of dilithium crystals are disappearing. Space and time have folded around several planets, effectively isolating them from any contact with outside worlds. And this phenomenon is not natural – someone or something is causing this to happen. This necessitates drastic measures; some of which are outside the Federation’s normal jurisdiction. For this, Admiral Pavel Chekov, head of Starfleet Intelligence, turns to Commander Tuvok, Voyager’s former security officer and current head of the newly reorganized Section 31. Tuvok must put together a new covert, renegade crew – mostly outcasts and rogues – even criminals. This new crew is tasked with finding out what is causing the folding of time and space, and stopping it – at all costs. But will they be able to put aside their differences and stop trying to kill one another in time to accomplish their mission?

So, the film takes place after the close of Star Trek: Voyager, leaving many of our Delta quadrant friends in the mix. The film disregards the semi-canon Star Trek Online video game and doesn’t really mess with the future prime timeline used in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film. Instead, Star Trek: Renegades takes a darker, smaller look at Trek with a focus on a small group of outcasts who are the Federation’s only hope. It’s an attempt to bend and maybe even break the rules set by Gene Roddenberry. The Federation of Renegades is surely no utopia.

Star Trek: Renegades Props

How did the Kickstarter fare? Decently well, in fact. It managed to get funded with $242,483 with an initial goal of $200,000. It was definitely no major hit like LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow campaign which brought in over five times their original million dollar goal. But, reaching a goal is reaching a goal and the film\pilot for Renegades was funded and has been produced. Backers of the Kickstarter have even received their digital versions of the film over the last week with physical copies of DVDs and Blu-Rays going into production in the next couple of weeks.

Star Trek: Renegades DVD and Blu-Ray

Everything sounds like it’s been going well for the fan-made film. Well, everything is not holodeck credits and shore-leave for Renegades. The primary goal of the campaign was to produce a pilot strong enough to pitch to CBS, the owner of the Star Trek television rights. We now know how that went. CBS has decided to pass on Renegades for reasons we were not told by the production team. Trek rights are complicated due to Paramount and CBS sharing them along with the new JJ-verse and the love for the original Prime timeline. If I were to speculate, I’d say that CBS either can’t make a show in the Prime timeline due to Paramount’s newer movies (don’t forget that Star Trek Beyond is supposedly coming out in 2016 for the 50th anniversary of the franchise), or CBS already has plans to bring Star Trek back to TV in the near future and Renegades didn’t fit with those plans. Either way, we won’t be seeing Renegades on CBS or any official network.

Star Trek: Renegades Icarus

This is not the end though. The Renegades team announced to their Kickstarter Backers that all is not lost. Since CBS has passed on the pilot, they are going to turn the film into the pilot of a fan-made web series, or as they put it “an independently produced fan-supported Internet TV Series!” Their plan is to leverage the pilot\film as the first episode and produce a total of 12 episodes a year using a fairly normal TV series production schedule with episodes being produced in the span of a week or so. Walter Koenig has agreed to stay on through Episode 3 which will be the conclusion to the Episode 2 cliffhanger but after that, he plans to retire his Chekov character. According to the report, the Renegades team is actively writing the second and third episodes and a new crowd-funding effort is to be announced soon.

If you’re not familiar with the production, check out the trailers here.

Are you disappointed that Star Trek: Renegades will not be picked up by CBS? Are you glad it’s staying a fan-made production? Let us know in the comments and look for our review of the pilot in the coming weeks. Oh, and live long and prosper.

CBS Says ‘No’ to Star Trek: Renegades